By Brian Spencer
We begrudge you not, Tyreke Evans, for your voters pushing Stephen Curry out of the Rookie of the Year limelight. But we’re not entirely happy about it.
Yesterday the good people at Sactown Royalty broke the news that studly Sacramento Kings PG Tyreke Evans will be named the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year. It’ll be formally announced on Thursday, and it’s not an especially surprising win for Evans. As the Kings’ new face of the franchise and one of the individual players I personally most enjoyed watching this season, Evans revealed himself as one cool cucumber under pressure, an efficient game-manager conducting and performing well beyond his 20 years. His efforts didn’t translate to many wins for the Kings (25-57), but the carnage would have been much worse—maybe Timberwolves worse—if not for him.
But like my colleague here at ETB, my man crush for Golden State Warriors G Stephen Curry ultimately supercedes my respect and admiration for Evans. I’m not quite ready to have Curry’s babies—he’ll have to first complete a successful sophomore season before I consider making that sort of commitment to him—but as the season progressed, and as I saw him steadily mature into a well-rounded dynamo who, as a rookie and like Evans, is every bit capable of carrying the load for a NBA franchise, the more my thinking changed on who deserved the Rookie of the Year nod.
They’re both worthy of the honor; this isn’t meant as a diss of Evans. In an ideal world, ROY voting would have ended in a tie, like it did 10 years ago for Elton Brand and Steve Francis and 15 years ago for Grant Hill and Jason Kidd.
Team record doesn’t really come into play, with the Warriors finishing just one game ahead of the Kings in the Pacific Division standings. Statistically the two finished in nearly a dead heat: Evans averaged about 3 points more per game and was the first rookie since LeBron James to average at least 20 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds per. Curry established himself as one of the league’s best, most-efficient three-point and free-throw shooters, finished with about 2 steals per, and averaged 22.5 points a night over his final 34 games.
Evans was probably the more consistent player of the two over the entire season, and because of it pretty much cemented himself in voters’ minds as the “runaway winner” early in the season. Curry really only entered the conversation as a viable alternative after the All-Star break and, fair or unfair, his fireworks in the second half of the season were likely viewed with an asterik because of the uptempo system in which he plays.
I don’t buy that possible demerit and feel any such skepticism does a disservice to what Curry unexpectedly accomplished. Those who actually watched the Warriors in action saw a player who responded extremely well under pressure, one entirely unfazed in end-game situations, and one every bit as eager to set up his teammates as he was to get his own shots.
While Don Nelson’s offense-only approach certainly worked in Curry’s favor, especially on fast breaks, at times the isolation-heavy sets worked against him, too, as he was far too often tasked with creating his own shot from the perimeter. Add to that an increased reliance on his offensive talents due to the ungodly amount of injuries that oftentimes left the Warriors’ roster bereft of proven scorers outside of Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette, both of whom suffered injuries themselves.
But, again, Evans wasn’t exactly living the high life in Sacramento, either, as the leader of a team who basically decided to reshuffle the deck midway through the season after trading Kevin Martin and and finished with only two players (Andres Nocioni and Ime Udoka) older than 28. The rookie from Memphis was asked to do it all, and, well, he basically did do it all.
Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry are both primed for perennial All-Star status. They’re both worthy of Rookie of the Year recognition. If I had a ballot, though, I’d vote for the guy whose baby I’m more inclined to have. Here’s looking at you, Steph.